In Australia, Alcoa operates integrated bauxite mining, alumina refining and aluminium smelting systems. At its Western Australian (WA) facilities, Alcoa must comply with diverse water and air quality monitoring and reporting requirements to meet its license conditions and reduce environmental risks.
Minimising Environmental Impacts
In 2007, WSP started a three-year contract to deliver potable and groundwater monitoring and sampling services for the WA facilities. This contract was an extension of a previous two-year contract that included the provision of support for operating requirements for groundwater bore maintenance. We were also awarded the ambient air monitoring contract in mid-2007 to assess the Pinjarra, Wagerup and Kwinana alumina refineries for their environmental compliance.
To better service both monitoring contracts, we built a fit-for-purpose groundwater analysis and dust weighing laboratory, which is located close to Alcoa's operations in Pinjarra, Western Australia. We have two purpose-built, trailer-mounted environmental-monitoring units based at this facility, which allows us to extract site samples in a cost-efficient way.
For the air monitoring project, we worked to the ISO 14001 EMS standard for compliance with air emissions. This included daily dust measurements of high-volume samplers. All refineries are surrounded by local sensitive receptors, which can potentially be a contentious issue with conflicting land users. As a result, the regulator imposed strict environmental approvals.
On one occasion, compliance conditions were exceeded at one of the site's high-volume sampling locations. This raised concern with the community and the environmental regulator. Through thorough analysis and auditing, our team established that the cause of the exceedance was due to anomalies that were not attributable to Alcoa’s operations.
We continued the environmental monitoring at Alcoa's sites throughout Western Australia until November 2014. Over this period, Alcoa and WSP developed and maintained a database, data management systems and accreditations for the project to deliver high-quality data regarding groundwater and ambient air monitoring results and water and air quality management.
Alcoa can now use this data to make investment decisions about its sites throughout Western Australia.
During the monitoring period, we achieved all agreed compliance targets. We also initiated a risk-based review of the monitoring programs that identified a program cost reduction for Alcoa.
Our monitoring provided the local community and regulators with confidence and reassurance that the ambient air monitoring program provided results that would allow for a quick response if it should be required, to minimise impact to the surrounding area.